In the opening episode of “One Day,” main characters Emma and Dexter hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. The pair have just graduated from university — and only met the night before — and delve into their hopes for the future. They take note of the clear weather on St. Swithin’s Day, said to predict whether the remainder of the month will be rainy or dry. Prospective viewers, take note: the series is a tearjerker.
It’s St. Swithin’s Day in each episode of the 14-part Netflix series, a new adaptation of David Nicholls’ romance novel. The show follows Emma and Dexter through their subsequent years of adulthood and their will-they-won’t-they friendship.
For breakout star Ambika Mod, excellently paired with “White Lotus” breakout Leo Woodall, the ascent up Arthur’s Seat during filming held personal significance. The young British actress, who got her start doing improv and comedy in college, had previously showcased her talents at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival several times. Climbing to the top of the iconic hill with her friends at the end of the festival had become a tradition.
“I wasn’t in a good place, feeling really lost and confused about my career — and then cut to almost exactly three years later, being up Arthur’s Seat and being the lead of the Netflix show of this really beloved book,” says Mod. “It felt like a massive full-circle moment. Edinburgh is very special to me, and I think it’s almost serendipitous that it’s a very special location in this book and to these characters as well.”
The book was previously adapted into a film starring Anne Hathaway in 2011. The episodic format of the Netflix series instead lets the story linger, highlighting the year-by-year progression of the characters’ relationship. “Some of the feedback has been like, ‘why are they remaking it?’” says Mod. “An hour-and-a-half film isn’t long enough to do this incredible 20-year love story masterpiece justice.”
Mod first read the book as a teenager and returned to it when she was cast in the role a decade later. On rereading the book, she was struck by the similarities she felt between herself and her character, Emma.
“I remembered identifying with her in bits here and there — as much as a 13-year-old can relate to the characters in ‘One Day’ — but I was struck by how much we’re so similar,” she says. “There was a lot of overlap in terms of our experiences and what we think and feel and how we react to the world, and our sense of humor.”
For example, one similarity: after university, Emma joins an educational traveling theater troupe, with an eye toward writing her own plays. After her own graduation, Mod pursued a career as a stand-up comedian, writing and performing her own material before getting cast in the BBC One series “This is Gonna Hurt.”
“That was sort of my breakout role, and everything came out of that,” she says. “It’s been a weird transition. I thought I had one plan, and that diverted massively — but I’m obviously really grateful that things have gone the way they have.”
When asked about what’s next after “One Day,” Mod reveals that she hasn’t been able to plan beyond Feb. 8, the date of the premiere. “I’m trying to be more open this year and just letting things happen,” she says. “And surrendering to the universe — as wonky as that sounds.”
In other words, you’ll have to check back in next year.